Adults and food intolerance

Reader reports

Irritability, anxiety, oppositional defiance, insomnia, brain fog
Headache, rash, heart symptoms, asthma associated with MSG and MSG boosters
Irritable bowel, asthma, incontinence, migraine, chronic fatigue, hives, arthritis, foggy brain

More information

Keywords: food intolerance, adult



Food intolerance affects adults as well as children. All of the symptoms listed below and more have been reported in readers aged from 21 to 97, see their stories below, and many more at

The following symptoms in adults can be triggered by or exacerbated by food chemicals:

• itchy rashes (may be misdiagnosed as shingles, etc)
• heart problems (chest pain, racing heart beat, palpitations, arrythmia)
• headaches, migraines
• arthritis
• incontinence
• irritable bowel symptoms (bloating, diarrhea, feeling of incomplete evacuation)
• Alzheimers/dementia (exacerbation of symptoms including oppositional defiance)
• Insomnia, sleep apnoea, night terrors
• asthma
• irritability, agitation
• brain fog, forgetfulness, excessive fatigue
• anxiety, depression, paranoia
• obsessive thoughts ( "run-away brain")

Margweb02 (1.4Mb, 1min16secs)

Summary of symptoms and reports

Irritability, anxiety, oppositional defiance, insomnia, brain fog

[1132] Salicylates: irritability due to daily aspirin in the elderly
[1134] Not just about children
[1135] I am a geriatrician
[1136] I am a cook in an Aged Care facility
[1133] Food additives and dementia in the elderly
[835] Alzheimers, asthma and apnoea (July 2009)
[1204] Salicylates : a brush with insanity, obsessive thoughts
[1068] Grandmother's night terrors, anxiety, paranoia, depression and brain fog helped by diet

Headache, rash, heart symptoms, asthma associated with MSG and MSG boosters

[1203] 635: nasty headache from Campbell's "Chicken & Corn" soup
[339] 635: Meals on wheels disease: chronic rash, hives, heart palpitations
[501] 635: two-year hot skin and awful itchy rash misdiagnosed as shingles
[1207] 635: shingles (or ribo rash?) caused by club gravy
[1147] 635: intensely itchy rash
[1099] 635: ribo rash from Tony Ferguson weight loss soups
[871] 635: Severe asthma-type reaction to 635
[954] 635: OMG! (itchy rash, dry skin, bowel upsets)
[941] 627: Chest pains from flavour enhancer
[117] 635: Irregular pulse and atrial fibrillation
[162] 635: scratching myself until bleeding - I'm 56 and another victim of 635
[254] 635: No one could give me an answer (huge welts)
[253] 635: No one has been able to help me (excruciating, horrific itchy rash)
[1178] 621: MSG and foggy brain, heart arrhythmia, arthritis
[940] 621: Fast and very irregular heart beats after Chinese meal
[1197] 635: Severe racing heart from "NO ADDED MSG" chips
[259] 635: Call an ambulance (due to Continental Oriental Fried Rice)

Irritable bowel, asthma, incontinence, migraine, chronic fatigue, hives, arthritis, foggy brain

[884] annatto 160b: Marlene's story - annatto and IBS
[338] 282: bread preservative, asthma and urinary incontinence
[204] 282: "282 one of main triggers for migraine"
[1164] 282: chronic fatigue really due to bread preservative
[287] Dental fillings – or salicylates? – as cause of migraines
[556] An adult food reaction – stomach spasms, nausea, gas – from Subway
[092] Itchy hives for ten years
[362] salicylates and others: generally unwell throughout life (bowel problems, nausea, vomiting)
[601] salicylates: Bernard's arthritis story
[1206] It is possible to have a fog-free brain and a calm, happy life!


 Reader reports

Irritability, anxiety, oppositional defiance, insomnia, brain fog

 [1132] Salicylates: irritability due to daily aspirin in the elderly

Do salicylates have the same effect on adults as they do on children? When my grandson eats salicylates in fruit he is irritable and has a vile temper. The doctor says my husband should take an aspirin every day for his heart but he started he has become grumpy and forgetful. We've been married for more than 50 years but the way he is now, I don't want to live with him any more. - Gail, NT
(Comment from Sue: Yes, salicylates can have the same effect on adults. For salicylate sensitive seniors who need blood-thinning medication, clopidogrel is a suitable alternative. People who are taking daily aspirinand want to try the RPAH elimination diet should discuss this with your doctor first , see p115 RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook)

 [1134] Not just about children

I've watched your fantastic DVD three times since receiving it. It has made me go back to the drawing board, I think I missed salicylates earlier. You might want to reconsider the title "Fed up with Children's behaviour", it is not just about children I feel, and it is not just about behaviour either. It goes much further. Many people who are not concerned about children's behaviour could still benefit in a big way from the DVD. - Peter, Adelaide

 [1135] I am a geriatrician

I am a geriatrician and wondered if the effect of food additives has been studied on Alzheimers patients (ie with a porous blood-brain barrier) – from the 2012 roadshow
(Comment from Sue: Not that I am aware of – one of the difficulties would be the number of additives used in medications. But see the next three reader reports.)

 [1136] I am a cook in an Aged Care facility

I am a cook in an Aged Care facility and I am trying to implement an additive and preservative free diet for the home. After observing the effects of failsafe eating with my stepson who suffers from Oppositional Defiance Disorder I am a convert to the cause. - Chris

 [1133] Food additives and dementia in the elderly

My in-laws have recently moved in with us while waiting for a nursing home. We have been failsafe for years and I have noticed a trend, that whenever my mother in law eats artificial colours and flavours in something like a finger bun with pink icing, or the cheap and nasty cream biscuits, she becomes very oppositional ... more so than usual.

My father in law does not and won't accept the role food plays in our life, and he is the one who buys the rubbish. For our own sanity, we will just have to hide it, then throw it out. I can now understand what living with a child with ODD must be like. I am sure she would have loved to hit me the other day!!!!!!

Given that in nursing homes, a lot of the food has artificial colourings, (e.g. jelly and custard etc), I was wondering if any research has been done on the effect of food AFTER dementia has set in. There are plenty of websites that tell you how to AVOID dementia , but it is too late for that.

So far we have noticed greater oppositional defiance after the ingestion of food that has additives e.g. Farmland Cream biscuits - the two occasions she had ONE, there was a reaction later that day.

Yesterday I think there was also a reaction to salicylates (some tomato sauce she was given at lunch time). Her husband makes most decisions for her ... and I was at work. During the afternoon she tried to put her used control pants down the toilet, rather than in the nappy bucket ... but she was aware she had done something wrong ... it was the first time she had done that. I will try and keep a food diary from now on, although I am not in control of what she eats while I am at work.

Ten days later: I kept a food diary and limited the types of food that my mother-in-law had over the previous week. Then at the weekend she had an iced donut (with artificial colours and probably other additives) on the Saturday and Sunday. The upshot is that last week was TERRIBLE ... she was introspective, restless, agitated, didn't do what was asked ... and ultimately she had a fall. She is now very depressed. There is no way we will give her a donut again! Cheryl, by email

 [835] Alzheimers, asthma and apnoea (July 2009)

I thought I would share with you briefly my experience of treating my wife who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Apart from the Alzheimer's diagnosis, she suffered from asthma, sleep apnoea, was unable to speak more than one word at a time and was going down hill very fast. After a lot of research I decided to put her on to a 90% raw food diet and after one month, she started to speak the odd phrase. This was marvellous and only encouraged me to continue. However the amazing thing was after a few months her asthma symptoms began to disappear and she was able to reduce her dependence on puffers. After six months even the preventer puffer was reduced to almost zero and a year later in consultation with the doctor stopped using puffers altogether. Two and a half years later, she has been symptom free for two winters so confidently predict it has gone forever. Oh by the way her sleep apnoea has gone as well. This experience of curing asthma with raw food is not unique as I have subsequently found out. When visiting your website I realised the raw food diet was eliminating additives. Commercial raw food has other problems i.e. pesticides, growth promoters etc but the experience of using commercial raw food has been worthwhile. Would like to eat organic but currently that's not possible. When visiting, we eat normal food and don't expect others to provide the food we use at home. - by email

 [1204] Salicylates: a brush with insanity, obsessive thoughts

Our family had a brief encounter with the elimination diet in the mid nineties and then another longer one some time after 2000. Never supervised. We considered ourselves to be living a healthy lifestyle, eating lots of fruit and vegies, enjoying an alcoholic drink at times but not excessively and we all exercised regularly. Food additives ended up on the forbidden list. Energy levels were really on the low side for our age but that only made us try harder to live the way we thought health should be achieved. Of course there were some other problems too but they weren't very big or we just never got to the bottom of them and had given up really. Yes, we had eliminated salicylates from the diet at some stage but it looks like we missed the changes in ourselves. Perhaps a supervising dietician would have been able to keep us on track.

More than ten years after the first attempt at the diet, in order to cope with the stresses of my job, I decided that I would eat only fruit at lunch times, lots of healthy oranges and other fruit. A fair bit of fruit really because I was exercising about 2 hours every day as well. In the evening I cooked heaps of tasty vegies (taste means often high in salicylates) ...

A week later, I happened to meet a young lady and we had a chat. Later on in the week I met her again, just before she headed off to live 600km in one direction. At the end of the week I was off to live similar distance in the opposite direction. Again we had a chat.

A few days after the last encounter with the young lady I kept thinking about her. On the first day this seemed a bit amusing, like being in love but it was getting stronger and stronger and soon a reality check happened. What the hell am I doing?

1. I am a married man with children, I don't need this.
2. I hardly know anything about her, we had 2 brief chats and at the time I wasn't really terribly interested. Nothing happened between us.
3. She never showed an interest in me, this is just fantasy.

It got worse and worse. My thoughts came back to her all the time. Every 5 minutes of every day for the next 15 days. I saw her face, went back to the relatively few sentences we exchanged, went over them time and time again. Going around in circles. It happened during the day, when going to bed and it was also the first thing I thought of when waking up in the morning. Everything reminded me of her. Strong feelings were boiling up in me, automatic and unstoppable. Emotionally I was on edge. It was hard to concentrate at work, it was hard to listen in meetings. It was getting between my family and me.

There seemed to be no end to it. I had lost control but I could not explain why, which of course made it worse because I could not do anything about it. I was eating healthy food, exercising heaps, cut out the last alcohol because life was troubling me already as it was. No coffee, no tea, no additives, no smokes. I felt that I was close to going crazy or was I crazy already? I used to pride myself on thinking logically and having a very practical outlook on life. What had happened to me?

The move at the end of the week to another town brought a change in diet with it. Still a fair bit of fruit, but less. My brain got marginally better but would still be bad for another 12 days. By that time Sue's DVD "Fed Up with Children's Behaviour: how food and additives affect behaviour" had come in and I watched it several times. Then the penny dropped, perhaps it was salicylates? Perhaps we had missed salicylates the first two times playing with the elimination diet. I cut fruit out of my diet immediately since I was desperate to get back to normal. It took another 2 plus weeks before I started to consider myself normal again. Other things improved too: singing voice better and more consistent than ever, sticky poos less of a problem, sleep improved, bloating reduced, feeling of incomplete evacuation reduced.

This was the closest encounter I've ever had with a run-away brain. Needless to say, it was not a constructive part of our marriage, however, we have survived. This story embarrasses me extremely but perhaps others can benefit from it ... - by email

 [1068] Grandmother's night terrors, anxiety, paranoia, depression and brain fog helped by diet (July 2011) COURAGE AWARD

My daughter bought the Fed Up book to help her son, my one year old grandson who was cranky, unable to sleep, hyperactive and constantly cleared his throat. After reading the book, I saw myself in the symptoms of night terrors, anxiety, depression and brain fogginess. So I joined him on the diet (we all live together) and I haven't had one night terror since. (Prior to this I was having at least 5 night terrors a week and hated going to bed.) I have had the occasional bad dream when eating off the diet, but nothing like they were. My anxiety lifted, the depression went away and for the first semester since returning to university I understood what they were saying, I participated in class and starting talking and laughing like a 'normal' person.

Before that I was constantly anxious, paranoid, stressed and felt 'stupid.' I thought people didn't like me, I wasn't good enough, and I was unmotivated to reach my goals.

My husband didn't believe in food affecting people, and was critical of our changes, however has seen remarkable changes in the baby and in me. He said to me recently 'what's the matter with you?' as I was sullen and quiet. I admitted I ate something off the diet (but I used to be like that most of the time). Now he cooks me failsafe meals at night and reads labels before buying foods.

I stay away from additives, salicylates, amines, glutamates and dairy. It can be difficult to eat a limited diet, but the world is so much more fun, it's worth it!

Thank you for writing the books and creating the DVD. It's given me back the opportunity to experience the wonderful life I have. - Monica


 Headache, rash, heart symptoms, asthma associated with MSG and MSG boosters

 [1203] 635: nasty headache from Campbell's "Chicken & Corn" soup

I am 87, and I am reporting a reaction to a can of Campbell's "Chicken & Corn" condensed soup. The flavour was very pleasant, but an hour or so after consuming it, I developed a very unpleasant headache and eventually felt ill enough to go straight to bed without my usual shower. I was O.K. by next day and didn't develop a rash. My wife, who also enjoyed the soup, was untroubled.

The can was marked in bold type as having no MSG, but I found "Flavour Enhancer (E635) in the list of ingredients. I phoned their Customer Service line and they were quite sympathetic but pointed out that they did list the flavour enhancer amongst the ingredients. As indeed they did, and spelled-out too, not disguised as a yeast extract or something similar. I expressed my opinion that it was somewhat deceptive, though, to label the can as not containing MSG when it did contain a close relative.

A survey of their other soup varieties seemed to show that anything with chicken in it was liable to also include E635, but the vegetable soups such as Cream of Pumpkin, Celery, Asparagus etc were free of it. – Dennis, by email

 [339] 635: Meals on wheels disease: chronic rash, hives, heart palpitations (open letter to the cook)

Six months ago, I was rushed off to hospital after waking in the middle of the night feeling edgy and hot with swelling of my face, heart palpitations and welts of hives all over my body. Afterwards, I questioned was it something I ate - the wine, the peanuts?

These awful experiences went on for a period of about four months until my brother saw a segment on A Current Affair about reactions to flavour enhancer 635 (also 627 and 631, ribonucleotides). I had missed the show but immediately got onto the website and as soon as I started reading I knew that was exactly what I had. This information is provided by Sue Dengate at on the factsheet called "Ribo Rash".

I read everything I purchase, I do not eat anything if I do not know exactly what is in it, and before I go to a function I speak with the chef or caterers. When dining I choose a meal and then request that the chef can assure me that there is no 635 added. I went through my pantry and discarded any foods with 635 in the ingredients and have not had a reaction of any kind for about two months which is a wonderful breakthrough for me, after experiencing reactions 3-4 times a week.

I request that you please take the time to read the Ribo Rash information, as my parents are both experiencing similar reactions. My stepfather has a chronic rash and my mother gets hives at least one night a week. They receive "Meals on Wheels" and my stepfather says it is usually after rissoles, stew or soup. Therefore I request that you read the ingredients that you are adding for flavour to these meals. Purchased chickens from Woolworths have the additive in the stuffing, Coles marinated fresh chickens contain 635, Red Rooster have in on the outside, some chicken salt has it as well as some stocks, tinned and packet sauces and soups and it is even in some butter blends. Potato chips, CC's and other flavour enhanced foods are all to be avoided but there are plenty of substitutes, it just means being more vigilant as to what is served.

The elderly in aged care facilities and even patients in hospitals are experiencing these reactions due to flavour enhancer 635. There are plenty of natural herbs and spices that can be added to food for flavour instead of an additive which is causing a lot of suffering and possibly even death. - by email, Queensland

 [501] 635: two-year hot skin and awful itchy rash misdiagnosed as shingles

I have been experiencing an unknown rash on and off for about 2 years now. I had the rash recently and this time it was severe and was all over my body. On other occasions it was only in small patches. Sometimes on my torso and other times on my back. I have an extremely healthy diet and eat fresh food everyday. I don't eat fast foods and rarely eat any form of junk food. The last rash was awful. Legs, feet, hips, torso, back and neck. Prior to the outbreak I had extremely hot skin and itchy arms. 24 hrs after the itching I noticed some spots on my stomach. By the time I arrived home the following day my body was covered. It has taken 7 weeks for the scarring to settle. This is the case every time the rash breaks out.

I went to the doctor on a couple of occasions. I was told it was pityriasis rosea and on another occasion I was told it was shingles. I studied my eating habits very closely until I worked out the cause. I have always had a suspicion that it was chicken stock. And now I am positive. After making my favourite Greek Lentil Soup the rash appeared. On this occasion I accidentally added extra chicken stock. I ate the soup for 2 days. This time with the extra stock the rash went crazy. My last outbreak had occurred after eating the soup also. I do not use any chicken stock at all now. I have been made aware of 635 by a mate who also experienced rashes from eating certain foods. His rashes are confined to his feet. Thanks for the story. I am not alone! – Luke, Melbourne.

 [1207] 635: shingles – or ribo rash? - exacerbated or caused by club gravy (July 2013)

I recently took my 97 year old aunt out for dinner at her local club. About half an hour after eating, she suffered an attack of a severely itchy rash that comes and goes and was diagnosed a year ago as shingles. I checked with the club and sure enough there was 635 in the gravy she had eaten (in a catering flavour base called beef booster). I also found out that she regularly eats canned soups with 635. It seems to me that the ‘shingles’ could be ribo rash, but trying to explain that to her is difficult. When she was born in 1916, canned soups and gravy were safe to eat and doctors were gods whose wisdom was not questioned. – Sue, NSW

 [1147] 635: intensely itchy rash (October 2012)

My mother-in-law suffered from three years of intensely itchy rash, consulted numerous medical specialists and tried everything from lotions to laser treatment without success until she found the Ribo Rash factsheet on your website, removed all products with 600 number flavour enhancers such as stock cubes, packet soups, instant gravy and sauces from her pantry - and her rash went away. When she confronted her doctor about it, he confessed he had never heard of 635. – from Fedup Roadshow 2012

 [1099] 635: ribo rash from Tony Ferguson weight loss soups (February 2012)

I started using Tony Ferguson (weight loss meal replacement) shakes last year and managed to lose 10 kg. Three months later I started using the soups as well. Around that time I developed a painful and desperately itchy rash mainly on my leg and sometimes it would spread to other parts of my body. My doctor gave me steroid cream and I didn't realise the cause of the rash until I heard you speak. When I looked at the packets, the soups I had been eating all contained flavour enhancers you talked about (621, 627, 631, 635). When I stopped eating them the rash went away. – Marian (mid-sixties), NSW

 [871] 635: Severe asthma-type reaction to 635 (November 2009)

I have been aware of an intolerance to MSG (621) for many years and mainly suffer with severe headaches, dehydration and nausea. I steer clear of any preservatives and flavour enhancers wherever possible, particularly those with #6 at the beginning. My diet rarely incorporates any packaged or prepared canned foods, I have eaten take away food but not on a regular basis. In a previous life, I did eat packaged and prepared foods!

A few years ago, whilst a friend was cooking a store bought, marinated chicken dish, I suffered blocked nose, mucous throat and headache, not from eating, but being in the surrounding area.

A few weeks ago I suffered another episode of severely blocked nose, thick mucous in throat and tightness in throat/chest, almost wheezing like an asthmatic. The symptoms started within 10 minutes of eating a Campbells "Chunky" Chicken & Vegetable, Curry with Rice meal in a tin left behind by a guest. Although it claims "No Added MSG No Artificial Flavours No Added Preservatives" it does contain 635. This is my first reaction to 635 as far as I am aware.

I am a fit and healthy 54 year old and don't have asthma. I will certainly be checking for this number now. - Lee, WA

 [954] 635: OMG! (May 2010)

I found your site quite by accident Googling and I had an 'OMG' moment - I have suffered from rashes on my torso for more years than I can count, also itchy dry skin and bowel upsets when I ate different things. I read about 635 and I was saved. I went through my pantry and was gobsmacked at how many items I was consuming with this additive in it. Since disposing of them all (and believe me there were many) and checking what I buy but mostly sticking to food that looks like food all my problems have disappeared. I cannot tell you, nor would I know myself, how much money I have spent on creams, lotions, powders and tablets, and the misery my life has been because of this - and how it is a different as night and day since I found out about it. Thank God for your site or I would still be oblivious to what was causing my suffering....who would have thought that I would still be learning at age 64!!!!!! – Maev, by email

 [941] 627: Chest pains from flavour enhancer (October 2010)

I am very food sensitive. Last week - end when I was entertaining I ate one ‘plain’ rice cracker. It was Fantastic brand and had Flavour Enhancer 627. After realising this I threw them out! But never thought about them again. That night I awoke at 2 am with mild chest pains which I had off and on through until 5 am - the pains were mild but enough to cause me grief and stop me from sleeping - I stayed up most of the night. I have no doubt the Flavour Enhancer in the biscuit caused my problem. – Di, Vic

 [117] 635: Irregular pulse and atrial fibrillation (August 2001)

I react to MSG, flavour enhancer 635, metabisulphite preservatives, and yellow colour in cordial. I also have food intolerance to salicylates. From MSG, 635 flavour enhancer and metabisulphite preservatives I get very irregular pulse and atrial fibrillation. The atrial fibrillation settles down after 12 - 20 hrs depending on how much offending additive I have eaten (in a restaurant it is difficult to tell) - and my pulse settles down faster if I drink lots of water every hour to flush the toxins out of my system. I've learned to read the labels and carry a reminder in my purse of the numbers to which I react when shopping. I have learned which brands or types of foods are a problem and steer clear of those. - Mary, retired nurse, Brisbane

 [162] 635: "I'm 56 and another victim of 635" (June 2002)

Congratulations on an excellent site, I wish I'd found it a few months ago when I was scratching myself until I was bleeding from the worst rash I have ever had. Just in case some people think that food additives only affect children, I'm 56 and another victim of 635.

I believe that packet soup was what triggered the rash, then things like BBQ chicken from Woolies, pizza and even KFC, although I can't prove that it contains 635 (but I bet it does).

I must admit the one food I miss has been my cup of hearty soup. I'd have it by itself or use it in casseroles. I can't find a stock cube or stock powder that doesn’t have 635 in it.

The most amazing thing is that neither my allergist nor my dermatologist had heard of 635. The rash just faded away when I stopped eating 635. I could have saved the $1000 that I spent at the specialists. My allergy specialist says I can now safely eat those foods again because the rash has gone but I won't be charging into a 635 diet to see if it comes back. Nine months of hell was long enough for me. - by email

 [254] 635: huge welts - no one could give me an answer (April 2003)

I'm 50 years old. Although an eczema sufferer most of my early life, in the past 12 months I have on different occasions developed a rash worse than anything I have ever experienced with eczema. I have been to dermatologists and allergists and found that I was severely allergic to the dust mite. In the past couple of months I changed all my bedding etc and have been free of rash.

On Saturday night I cooked apricot chicken. The welts on my body started to appear again on Sunday night. I finished the chicken for dinner on Monday evening not associating it with the rash. Last night I woke tearing my body to pieces. There were huge welts all over my torso, arms and upper legs. I was in a terrible state. It was two in the morning and I was sitting in my lounge room sobbing and distressed. I thought I had found the problem with the dust mite. This was however was something far worse.

I went into the kitchen and checked what I had eaten. I had read the article previously on food enhancer 635. I checked the Continental French onion soup packet that I had used in the casserole. There was no mention of 635. I was totally distressed and at my wit's end. I went back to the soup packet and checked again and saw 'flavour enhancer (ribonucleotides)'. I had kept the article on 635. I rushed to my purse and took out the article. There was the chemical name  for 635 - the same as on the soup packet. At least I now feel a little relieved to know what has been causing these periodic chronic outbursts of welts. I can try and avoid these foods.

The allergist I went to only a couple of months ago knew nothing of 635 until I told him of the article in The Herald Sun. He had tested me for everything else but not for 635. I am astounded that they are unaware of this problem. I have been going to doctors for the past 18 months, whenever I flared up. No -one could give me an answer.

This is nothing short of criminal that the Food and Health departments will not ban this additive. To tear yourself to pieces, with huge welts on your body is the most demoralising thing I have ever experienced. Obviously this had caused problems for me previously and had gone undetected. Not only do I now have to wait for the welts to die down, I have scratched up my skin so badly it will take weeks for that to heal. Surely big business should not come first over the health and well being of Australians. - Sue, Vic

 [253] 635: No one has been able to help me (April 2003)

For the past 2 years and 4 months I have suffered unbelievably with the most horrific itchy rash and skin problems. I rated my rash as being chronic. It has been the most excruciating thing that I have ever experienced in my 65 years of life. I have been to so many doctors that I have lost count of them. Sadly no one has been able to help me, not even one of Adelaide's leading dermatologists.

Through the Current Affair program I have been able to work out that it is the additive 635 that has been my problem all this time. The pictures you have on your web site are exactly what I was like, plus on the days that I had really bad reactions - which was nearly every day - my whole face was puffy with fluid, burning hot and extremely itchy, with prickling sensations and constant flaking skin, just like dandruff. I also suffered very swollen lips and badly swollen eyes with sacks of fluid under my eyes for a couple of days each time this occurred. My whole body was so inflamed that my skin was a constant clammy state 24 hours a day.

My hands have been extremely sore with splits all over them and like a fungus growth under all my finger nails, all of my fingers have had big gaping splits on them, some days it has been almost impossible to work because they have been so painful, my skin just seemed to split apart at any time.

At times it has been unbearable. It has cost me thousands of dollars in medical bills, lotions, tablets and bandages over the past two years plus. I had no idea at all that it could be something that I have eaten all my life. As I do not eat a lot of red meat, chicken is my main meat source. Sometimes I would have it for two meals a day. Not for one moment did I ever think that it could be the chicken that I was eating that was causing such a serious rash.

I always purchased my cooked chickens from the same shop, so I asked them what they put on their chickens before they are cooked. They handed me a can of the product and there it was: 635. For the past nine days I have not eaten any chicken at all and the rash has disappeared completely. Although I am still having some itchy sensations during the day, I am happy to say that I have had two full nights sleep for the first time in over two years.

How can customers know that this dreadful product is being used on rotisseried chickens when there are no signs displayed in the shops stating that it has been used or no warning on the foil bags that they are put in when purchased?

I just hope that this can be brought out in the open for everyone to be aware of. I am certainly spreading the word to all that I meet, especially everyone who has seen me go through the past 28 months of agony. They are stunned. Everyone asks, 'how can the government possibly allow things like this to be used???' - Yvette, Adelaide.

 [1178] 621: MSG and foggy brain, heart arrhythmia, arthritis (February 2103)

I've been concerned about brain fogging for some time, but never knew whether it was a real effect (or just 'me') or where it came from. After doing the Elimination Diet for about 6 weeks and then the RPAH Glutamates Challenge of 4 tablespoons of soy sauce over rice, I developed quite strong brain fogging within about an hour. As a former regular eater of strong cheeses, Marmite, and soy sauce with sushi, I then understood where my brain fog problem came from! I also think that my heart rhythm issues have decreased since I've started avoiding foodstuffs with high levels of glutamates. Your website and the RPAH book and challenges led me to my answer, thank you very much! I also recently learned that when my mother got bad arthritis in the 70s or 80s, she did some research and decided MSG was probably the culprit, cut it out and the arthritis subsided.- Neil, UK

 [940] 621: Fast and very irregular heart beats after Chinese meal (October 2010)

From time to time I notice an ectopic heart beat, Dr. tells me nothing unusual, most people get them. However last night after a couple of weeks eating really good and healthy natural foods we went out to a Chinese Restaurant. I like going there, but have not been there for a year or so I'd say. About an hour after I went to bed it began, I think you'd call it Tachycardia, a fast (100) and very irregular heartbeat. Some big strong thumping ones and then some feeble and fast ones. I got up, sat up for another 2 hours. Blood pressure had risen incredibly, and over the 2 hours settled down but the feeling on panic stayed. It's still here this morning actually and I didn't feel I could drive, so had to ask for a lift. Needless to say I am not having any of the left overs for lunch. Back to the straight and narrow. - Joy, NSW

 [1197] 635: Severe racing heart from "NO ADDED MSG" chips

I have severe racing heart after consumption of MSG or free glutamic acid. Last year I put in a complaint to Qld Health who then went to Vic Health re Coles chicken flavoured chips, with no success. The chip packet boldly stated NO ADDED MSG.

I knew MSG was in the chips (due to my heart racing over 200 bpm) but no doubt it was contained within the other 6.. numbers (ingredients: hydrolysed vegetable protein (corn), flavour enhancers 627, 631). Qld health had the chips lab tested and as I already knew due to my racing heart, found MSG in the chips but it can't be proven the MSG in the chips was ADDED separately

I am now so sensitive to glutamic acid that two months ago I had to go to emergency on 2 occasions had to be injected with adenosine to get my heart back from 238 bpm to a more normal 70 bpm. I am also on verapamil 180 sr prescribed by my cardiologist to try stop this happening. However even on the medication it has still happened twice but the racing heart doesn't last as long ... only 35 mins of 200bpm. Pff! (As opposed to 1.5hrs over 200bmp, prior to being on the verapamil). I have since started going to Emergency when this happens - when the glutamic acid is hidden - do I really want to test my heart out that much before suffering cardiac arrest!

Note this happens when MSG is HIDDEN within foods. It is such a minefield; as you never can tell where it's hidden and they don't make it be labelled. This was never a problem for me ingesting MSG till approx 6 years ago. As you said, maybe the 635 has made this worse. - by email, Qld

(Comment from Sue Dengate: in this case, the food manufacturers are being deliberately ingenuous. Of course they know they are adding MSG in the form of hydrolysed vegetable protein rather than flavour enhancer 621. The other 600-number flavour enhancers - 627, 631, 635 - are MSG-boosters designed to boost the effects of any MSG up to 10 or 15 times, so you are much more likely to be affected by those than 621. Anyone who wants to avoid MSG should avoid any flavour enhancers e.g. 620-635. This pretty much means sticking to plain healthy food and cooking for yourself, which of course is now recommended for weight loss, cancer prevention and a whole host of other health problems.)

 [259] 635: Call an ambulance (due to Continental Oriental Fried Rice)

I woke up one Sunday morning with an angry red blotchy rash all over my body and my legs were burning. I asked my husband to call an ambulance as I nearly fainted and felt like vomiting at the same time. A doctor put me on Prednisolone tablets for a week. I also took antihistamines and smothered myself in Calamine lotion but nothing seemed to ease the rash which turned to severe hives all over my body. I couldn't sleep and would be awake in the night clawing at my skin for some relief. I ended up bathing in Pinetarsol Solution which eased the itching. I was told that looking for the cause of the reaction was like "looking for a needle in a haystack" and I could not think of anything I had done differently. So to see your story on A Current Affair was fantastic. I am sure my reaction was from eating Continental Oriental Fried Rice packet mix on Friday night and also Saturday night for tea. I had a slight rash on my stomach on Saturday afternoon but it wasn't until Sunday morning that the severe reaction occurred. I checked my cupboards and 635 was also in Continental Macaroni Cheese as well. Thank you, and let's hope it can be removed from foods before someone has a fatal reaction.


 Irritable bowel, asthma, incontinence, migraine, chronic fatigue, hives, arthritis, foggy brain

 [884] 160b: Marlene's story: annatto 160b and IBS (November 2009)

First, may I tell you my husband is a retired Allergist and Immunologist and he observed my IBS experiences then elimination of them. For more than 40 years I had diarrhea and severe intestinal pain. The symptoms changed as the years passed. It went from occasional to frequent and from mild to severe. This leads me to believe it is dose and frequency related. The four years prior to my discovery that annatto was the problem for me, it was daily and severe. I would get an excruciating stomach ache with bloating after 20 minutes of ingestion of an annatto product. After another 20 minutes I had an emergency run to the WC and a long bout with painful diarrhea followed by many more trips to the WC. Then, I was enervated and just wanted to do nothing and sometimes for days after. I wasn’t lactose intolerant nor did I have Celiac Sprue (which the doctors considered). In 2005, after a colonoscopy, my GI diagnosed me with IBS. The symptoms continued until 2006, when I was able to pinpoint what caused my IBS symptoms.

On a 37 day trip to Europe, I had no symptoms and was “normal”. I thought about what I was eating in the States and not in Europe. Coffee Mate came to mind. I was asymptomatic the entire trip except for one cup of coffee with a non-dairy product on the plane. Aha! Back in the States, I stayed off Coffee Mate and was fine. 30 days later I tried it and the IBS returned. A few weeks later I ate a scoop of vanilla ice cream; IBS again. What they had in common was annatto, so I researched annatto. There are hundreds of papers on annatto but not one linking annatto to IBS. My husband ordered pure annatto and experimented on me. I got the full-blown IBS when we shared a glass of water with annatto. He didn’t. Annatto predictably results in IBS symptoms of intestinal pain and diarrhea in me. It doesn’t make sense I could be the only one who gets IBS symptoms from Annatto! - Marlene 2009 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 [338] 282: bread preservative, asthma and urinary incontinence (July 2004)

* We gave up 282 preservatives in bread after reading your book ‘Fed up’ about two years ago – within a week my wife was free of urinary incontinence and over a period of about three months I was able to give up all asthma medications. – readers aged 60 and 56

 [204] 282: "282 one of main triggers for migraine" (September 2002)

I am very interested in your research re calcium propionate. I thought that it may be of interest to you that as a migraine sufferer, I have found that 282 is one of my main triggers for a migraine attack. I have them very infrequently but very severely. By keeping a food diary I have been virtually able to avoid them. Calcium propionate has been off my list for at least five years. Thanks for drawing the attention of the world to the effects of this preservative. - by email

 [1164] 282: Chronic fatigue really due to bread preservative (from 2002)

I am a busy executive. I love my job but for the last two years I have been feeling tired all the time and struggling to keep up. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. After I read your book I decided to try preservative free bread and GUESS WHAT? I don't have chronic fatigue after all - it was all due to that stupid preservative. People need to know it doesn't only affect kids. When I eat it, I feel tired and need to sleep a lot. - by email, WA

 [287] Dental fillings – or salicylates? – as cause of migraines (September 2003)

My mother was advised to have all her teeth out because her fillings might be causing her migraines. She doesn't get migraines any more, but I'm not convinced that fillings were the cause. She is eating a lot less salicylates because she avoids tomatoes (the skins get stuck in her false teeth), strawberries (seeds likewise) and apples (too difficult to bite). - by email

 [556] An adult food reaction – stomach spasms, nausea, gas (May 2007)

I'm 51-years-old. Tonight I went to Subway and purchased a Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap. I hadn't eaten a low-carb tortilla in sometime and had forgotten the affect one had on my stomach. It wasn't until I finished eating that I, unfortunately, remembered. Every time I eat one, I have severe spasms in my stomach, with some nausea and gas. Tonight, it was so severe it felt as though a knife was cutting into me. I see your web site focuses on, mostly, children. I just want someone to be aware to the fact adults can have the same intolerances as children. – by email

(Comment from Sue: The most likely suspect would be sucralose sugar free sweetener, also known as Splenda, in the ranch dressing. Other sugar free sweeteners such as sorbitol are required to carry ‘laxative effect’ warnings and there are numerous similar reports about Splenda. Further reading:

‘massive stomach cramps and gas’

Sucralose has also been found to reduce beneficial bugs in the gut leading some scientists to suggest that it may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease. Qin X. Etiology of inflammatory bowel disease: a unified hypothesis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 ;18(15):1708-22.

Subway ingredients list:

 [092] Itchy hives for ten years (October 2000)

"I was recently told about your book Fed Up by my dietician. I have food intolerances to salicylates and amines and I am now going to test for the bread preservative. I am in my 60s and have suffered with itchy hives for over 10 years. At last after reading your book I seem to be getting on top of it. My daughter has put two of her children on the elimination diet with excellent results. Thank you......" - reader, email

 [362] Generally unwell throughout life (March 2005)

I am a retired RN and I have three daughters and three young granddaughters. Throughout my life I have visited many doctors complaining of bowel problems, nausea, vomiting and feeling generally unwell, only to be told on frequent occasions and after many investigations, that it was all in my head. As a child I can recall frequently feeling very unwell and being diagnosed as having had "bilious attacks', however I can now attribute the cause of these episodes to an intolerance to natural food chemicals.

Because I enjoy cooking I often browse through recipe books in the shops and this is how, some years ago, I came across a copy of 'Friendly Food'. After browsing through it I realised that this book described symptoms which sounded very like mine. Maybe it wasn't in my head after all! I requested a referral from my GP to RPAH Allergy Clinic and after undertaking the elimination diet, my dietician at the clinic concluded that I was very sensitive to salicylates and I also had some milder reactions to quite a few other substances but not amines.

It is now quite a few years since I was diagnosed and I am delighted that there is now a website and also your great Failsafe Cookbook for guidance. The oldest of my granddaughters has recently been "tamed" from oppositional defiance disorder by using the Failsafe Diet. She is now quite a different child, no longer having restless legs, eczema, or being uncontrollable or defiant. Although she is only five years old she is quite happy to comply with the failsafe food because she now feels so much better. My three daughters all recognise that they do have problems with some foods so it appears that I have unfortunately handed down the problem to both generations.

I am now without too many problems although trying to modify my diet when I attended Weight Watchers was a bit of challenge. However, I did eventually manage to lose 10kg. When travelling to UK and the States I have always come home feeling very much the worse for wear due to food intolerances so I am delighted to see that there are now failsafe contacts overseas should I venture forth again one day. Getting people to understand food intolerances is always a problem and I am now quite used to being asked to say exactly what food items I am allergic to and then I try, often without success, to explain the difference between food intolerances and allergy. I am sure that your glossy brochures will be very useful for this. - Jane, NSW

 [601] Bernard's arthritis story (February 2008)

The most remarkable story comes from Bernard in Wollongong. Now in his 70s, active and virtually arthritis-free, Bernard suffered from painful and crippling arthritis for nearly 30 years. In 1994, he was told that if his arthritis was not controlled by daily use of medication, he had 'only four or five years of active life left'. After extensive reading, Bernard opted to try an elimination diet against the recommendation of his specialist, and achieved remarkable results. He warns that arthritis sufferers may need extra time. Bernard wrote:

'If you think that the time span of the food effects on children and their behaviour is long you should try solving the rheumatic and inflammatory disease problem. You are looking at an abstinence time of up to 12 weeks before challenges, symptoms that could take more than a week to identify, and challenges that could take four months or more to complete. I am still improving after eight and a half years on low chemical foods. NOTHING will make me eat the foods I once loved so much.' ...

When Bernard challenged salicylates, on the morning of the eighth day he found his arthritis had returned with such a vengeance that it took him an hour to get out of bed. Artificial food colouring took two days to aggravate his arthritis.

After so many years of needless pain and suffering it is not surprising that Bernard and others like him feel angry about misinformation from experts. When a well-known Australian nutritionist wrote that there is no truth in the rumour that people with arthritis should not eat tomatoes, Bernard added his own comment: 'like hell there isn't!'

You can read about the effects of additives and natural chemicals in fruit and vegetables in Bernard's ‘My life with arthritis’ story: ‘I have suffered with the pain and swelling of arthritis in my arms, hands, neck, back, legs and feet for almost half of my adult life. At times my condition was so bad that I was only able to walk about 50 metres without a rest. The constant pain I suffered was unbearable ... ‘ on the website:

 [1206] 'feeling like a drunken sailor is not just "the way I am" - it is possible to have a fog-free brain and a calm, happy life!' (July 2013)

I'm 22 years old and have always had issues with anxiety, and since I was in my early teens I've suffered from bowel problems. I saw a doctor about it a few years ago who diagnosed me with IBS and said there wasn't much I could do. I was put on the fodmap diet and saw some improvement, but my anxiety seemed to get worse. Then my Mum told me about you because she had some kids at school trialling the diet to treat their ADHD.

I bought your book and I felt like you were writing about me and my family! All of us have symptoms of food intolerance: my sister who is hypoglycaemic and prone to mood swings and my brother who is withdrawn, quiet and unmotivated. I could relate to so many of the symptoms: reflux as a baby, constant ear infections as a child, anxiety and OCD habits (handwashing, wringing my hands etc) and in my teenage years I felt distracted, foggy brained, unmotivated and developed depression in my last year of high school.

Since I've started the elimination diet there has been a slow improvement, and it wasn't until I considered everything together that I realised how much better I feel. I could go on forever with the improvements! I don't feel drunk or dizzy anymore, I don't take 5 wrong turns when driving to the shops (used to happen all the time), I can concentrate at uni and feel more awake, I am calm and so much happier, don't snap at my boyfriend over silly things AND my stomach cramps and bloating are gone: I have normal bowel movements for the first time in years!!!! My boyfriend has been really supportive and did the diet with me, not expecting much. I saw changes in him from the first week- he is happier, calmer and more enthusiastic about life. He even said to me when we reintroduced sals that he felt like his patience got much shorter and he had trouble sleeping.

I've only done two food challenges so far: I tested dairy first, since I had thought for years that I was lactose intolerant, and passed. I've just completed the sals challenge and it seems to be a culprit. I went for a week feeling fine, though I did have a little bit of dermatitis on my hands and a day where i felt sad and a bit hopeless. I kept on because I wanted to be more certain, and it didn't take long! From around day 8 I felt tired, distracted and 'drunk while driving' again, I slept over 10 hours each night but woke feeling exhausted, snapped at my boyfriend over nothing and had trouble controlling my body temperature, like I had a cold. It has taken me around 3 days to start feeling better, but I am already feeling more lucid. I'm just so excited to finally know where to start to feel better :) Finding out about the RPAH elimination diet and the Food Intolerance Network has made me realise that feeling like a drunken sailor every day is not "just the way I am" and that it is possible to have a fog-free brain and a calm, happy life! :)

Thanks so much Sue, for everything that you're doing to help people feel well, and helping kids to avoid a life of medication and labels! - Isobel, by email

 Further information

Introduction to food intolerance

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians 

© Sue Dengate July 2013



Soy, lentil and other legume intolerance
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